(commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

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jack_norton
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(commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#1 Post by jack_norton » Sun Jan 24, 2016 4:15 pm

I've finally released this card game / VN hybrid. The card game is entirely optional: you can play the game as a normal visual novel if you prefer.

Demo/purchase links: http://winterwolves.com/pscd.htm

Game trailer:


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Description:

Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense brings you back in time in the early settlement days of the Planet Stronghold colony.

By a bizarre coincidence, two captains, two siblings, get stuck in the same colony: Alex and Diana Nelson. Take control of one of them, and discover the mysteries and the dangers of Planet Stronghold, and the personalities of the various characters of your team.

The game features a big card-collectible gameplay part, easy to learn but hard to master. Upgradable cards brings even more replayability, especially at higher difficulty levels.

For those looking forward more to the story and visual novel/dating sim aspect, you can play the game in "Visual Novel Mode" and enjoy the game dialogues and the beautiful painted artwork style: there are eight characters to befriend, and if you play your cards right, romance!

Features:

- Play as male or female, eight characters to date including homosexual romance
- Card game with over 120 unique cards to collect
- Visual novel gameplay with a story featuring over 200,000 words of dialogues!
- Choices you make will have long term impact, leading to different endings
- Adjustable difficulty levels: play it as pure visual novel or hardcore strategy game
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#2 Post by YonYonYon » Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:03 pm

Congratulations with the release!

Very important question, can I romance the robot? If I can, what's his sexual orientation?
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#3 Post by jack_norton » Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:29 pm

Yes you can romance him playing as Diana (straight romance).
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#4 Post by YonYonYon » Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:06 pm

Dang! Thank you, I'll buy this game as soon as possible.
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#5 Post by philip » Thu Jan 28, 2016 12:43 pm

@jack_norton-

Downloaded the demo, played through it once, and KNEW that I had to have the complete game. Well, that took care of all my free time for the next two days! I played in the VN mode. It's a great story, with incredible detail; the art is fantastic! I have made it to the end once, and will be going back to find the achievements that I missed. If you haven't figured it out yet, I am really pleased that I added this game to my collection. My hat is off to the crew that made this possible.

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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#6 Post by jack_norton » Thu Jan 28, 2016 1:05 pm

Thanks!
Rumors says it's my best written game to date :mrgreen:
That's why I keep insisting on people who don't like sci-fi, to at least try the demo! :)
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#7 Post by jack_norton » Fri Mar 11, 2016 7:27 am

Since the game underperformed heavily, I made a poll in my forums trying to understand the reasons:
http://www.winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=3813
would be cool if people who played the demo or just knew about it, could vote (you can vote anonymously, only to post you need to register). Thanks :)
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#8 Post by Danko » Fri Mar 11, 2016 4:27 pm

jack_norton wrote:Since the game underperformed heavily, I made a poll in my forums trying to understand the reasons:
http://www.winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=3813
would be cool if people who played the demo or just knew about it, could vote (you can vote anonymously, only to post you need to register). Thanks :)

Hi Jack. I've been meaning to register on your forum to respond but since I don't know Loren's mother's name, I couldn't, so I'll just post this here.

First of all, I'm really sorry to see PSCD underperform to this point. I've been following your blog and dev process for some time and I respect you a lot as one of the very few western VN devs that really hold their ground in this genre and market. However, time and again I've noticed several issues that prevent me from becoming a fan of your games.
So this time, since you've asked for feedback, I'll try to lay it all down without any self-censorship. Please don't feel offended since I just really hope you do well and continue to make many more VNs for the sake of us all. It really breaks my heart when you don't notice some obvious issues in your projects and wonder why they didn't sell as much as you hoped.
After reading your last post along with some mildly frustrated previous blog posts, I felt obligated to take some time and write this down. Do note I've never finished any of your games, so I'm probably outside of your target audience, so you can take it as a complete outsider unbiased VN reader opinion.

You have obtained a small but loyal fanbase of people who buy and enjoy your games. However, I believe that this caused you to become less critical in your development approach. I think this is the main issue at hand here. From what I've seen, you tend to outsource most of your writing and art, and you generally just go with what they create and code it into a game.

And since I also understand it's really hard to be objective about something you're working on, my advice: get some really mean cynical editors/quality assurance people to playtest your games, not just your core fan audience.

If you did, in regard of PSCD they would have told you outright:
*The character art looks silly and unappealing
*The writing is awkward


That's it. That's what the average steam guy will get from your screenshots after 10 seconds spent on your steam page. That's why he'll probably click away in one nanosecond.

Those are two main problems that keep popping up in most of your games.

I understand you're going for the western art style, and it's great, it's unique. It is however really hard to make as appealing as a generic anime character art. The characters in this game, just from the screenshots - they look realistic, but silly and awkward at the same time, and they don't create much sympathy in the viewer. The character art is the first impression. This it THE main reason people will skip your game.

The writing... it's much more complicated, but I'll try to make some points. Most sentences in every screenshot show off an amateurish feel. It is tacky, the sentences are silly, the grammar is occasionally awkward (that's coming from me, and I barely know English).
It's not really BAD, like in some small indie VNs from solo devs that have never written anything in their life (that would be me), but it does show immediately that the writer is not a professional. Some people won't mind it. Some won't even notice. Heck, most of your readers are used to it and enjoy it. That's totally okay! But there are lots of other people that will notice it right away and skip the game because of it, or worse - buy the game, confirm their suspicion, refund it and write a bad review.
This is a problem that I hope you won't take lightly. From every line, every screenshot, every character preview in your blog, I get the same amateurish writing feeling. And it's driving me a bit crazy that you don't see it at all. I think you really need to hire a good editor, and maybe a better writer.

It's obvious that you've spent a lot of work on PSCD: 200k words? Strategic card game with 120 cards? Whoa. That's pretty cool and ambitious.
But did you really have to? Who is your target audience?
    Is it otome visual novel romantic story lovers? They don't want strategic card games and serious sci-fi settings.
    Is it strategic card game/RPG lovers? They don't want 200k word stories with romantic routes.
    Is it the general VN readers? They want their anime and appealing characters with quality writing, at least.
    Is it the serious sci-fi readers? The art does not give a "serious story" feel, and the mention of numerous love routes also doesn't.
Wouldn't it be better to focus on pleasing just one group, rather than trying and failing to please them all?

To sum up my general advice:
    Hire a professional writer, or writers.
    Prioritize art, then writing. Everything else is not that important. The art is your first impression. This is why people click "buy". The writing is why they stay until the end, write good reviews and buy the sequels.
    Perform some serious quality control on the writing. Hire an editor, preferably. Does the writing sound wacky or amateurish? Are the characters well developed? Is the plot interesting and well-structured? Is the protagonist likable? Those are just a few basic questions the editor should ask.
    Beta test your art, and remake it if the audience don't like it. Don't be afraid to change artists or art styles.
    Don't let your artists and writers get away with amateurish work. Make them work until they get it right.
    Cut down on the stat-raising and hopeless grinding. Work on making appealing characters and interesting story instead.
    Don't mix genres too much. VN readers just want cool characters in interesting stories. If you want to make RPG or a card game, make it an independent game. This will lose your VN audience, but will open your game to a much larger general gamer audience.
    Prioritize quality, not quantity. It's okay if it's not very long. 5-10 hours are perfect for an average romantic VN.
    Hire some testers outside of your main audience. They'll point right out all the serious problems, like art and writing, at the earliest stages, so you'll minimise your losses.

I hope that did not sound too pretentious, and that it will help your future endeavours in some way. I wish you all the best. Despite the flaws and some of your recent dissapointments, you're really an example to all of us western VN devs, and many of us want to be as successful as you.

With all the best wishes,
Danko

P.S. Drop me a PM if you'd want to talk more. I'd be glad to help if I could.

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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#9 Post by jack_norton » Fri Mar 11, 2016 4:47 pm

Wow long feedback! Thanks :) I'm not offended at all, I like criticism like this.

Can't reply to all your points, but:
- on the art style of this specific game, yes I might have made a wrong choice. It wasn't a game with an easy development journey since originally was to be a tower defense... so I went with western style because wasn't even supposed to have a visual novel part :)
- regarding the writing instead, I don't agree completely. It's true that my writers aren't professionals but in none of my games were, and I got MUCH MUCH better results. I didn't think that PSCD would be a topseller, but not even such a poor result. Hiring a real "pro writer" for all games is really not affordable, would eat up all the earnings (unless I make much shorter games like 50k words or something, which could be possible too). Even if now I have one working on some games to be honest so I've already followed the advice for future games :)

Some ideas are good, others honestly aren't possible (like redoing art until looks good - it would cost too much). Yes I realized too that mixing genres is not a good idea, except for RPG/VN, since my most successful games are exactly that :)

I agree though on the length - I am spending too much money to make very big/long games when people probably don't care (or don't even have time to play until the end).
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#10 Post by applegirl » Fri Mar 11, 2016 8:43 pm

I know this is a bad thing to say, but the art really turned me off this game. I'm already hesitant because I'm not so much a fan of card games, but the art was off-putting for me. I don't mind realistic non-anime art, but this seemed in the realm of an uncanny valley (especially the main character for example). Going to the steam store, I wasn't a fan of the sound track theme song and even though I really, really enjoyed the original Planet Stronghold (a really amazing RPG that I hope sold really well), I figured this was a pass.

Maybe the story or writing would appeal to me. But with the art, theme song, and card game set up (which is one that I really don't play 99.9 percent of the time) turned me away. Still really enjoy your previous games, but I think my taste tends to be mainstream (RPG ftw) or even close to the typical visual novel fan (since I've enjoyed most of your work).

EDIT:

I probably should mention: for me personally, I'd say 90-95 percent of the reason I passed on this game was the art style. I think if it had probably been in the vein of the older Planet Stronghold, I probably would have tried the demo. I know that isn't a fair way to approach games but with so many options, I feel like its kind of a natural thing to pass on a game if the art style bugs me so much. Not all the characters are creepy looking though, just enough where I personally don't want to bother.

2nd EDIT:
Also--I actually really like realistic art when done right (like Moacube's Cinders/Solstice). So I don't want this to seem like an anti-realistic art style when I adore the artist for Moacube. I feel like there is something off--the proportions or something that just ruins what would otherwise be good art. Uncanny valley, wrong proportions, just something that is wrong and that is enough to dissuade me from buying this game (or other games with art where I feel the same way).

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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#11 Post by jack_norton » Sat Mar 12, 2016 1:36 am

Thanks and no, you're not the only one who didn't like the art :)
I made a poll in my forums since same artist should work on Roger Steel (a steampunk RPG) and the style is different from before, but I want to get feedback early this time!
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#12 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Mon Mar 14, 2016 1:07 am

I completely missed the fact that the game was released - or even a thing! So I guess, the marketing and release completely missed me. I didn't see it pop-up on Steam either....

I will say the art doesn't bother me so much (though the male sibling IS really weird looking, like his face is too big for his head, or he's missing cranial mass or his expression is really wrong).

The theme song, however, is - sorry - atrocious. I almost quit watching the trailer before it ended, just because I couldn't stand the singing. It sounded like the singer was afraid of hitting high notes? It had a very monotone feel with a lot of repetition to me. But I'm no music expert.

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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#13 Post by jack_norton » Mon Mar 14, 2016 3:18 am

Well the theme song surely wasn't the problem, since Loren had a much worse one and... did "slightly" better :D
The main issue was the art style and mixing VN with card game which really doesn't work. It was an experiment, live and learn lol.
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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#14 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Mon Mar 14, 2016 11:37 am

jack_norton wrote:Well the theme song surely wasn't the problem, since Loren had a much worse one and... did "slightly" better :D
The main issue was the art style and mixing VN with card game which really doesn't work. It was an experiment, live and learn lol.

Yeah, I remember the weird theme song in Loren's first trailer, now that you mention it. Wasn't that changed in subsequent trailers?

Shame about the art. I think Dennis' art is very nice overall, he does a great job with rendering. I do think his expressions look weird, however. I've noticed it in the Roger Steel art as well. He's trying to be too rigidly realistic with the expressions, IMHO. It's hitting the uncanny valley hard. He needs to exaggerate the features and expressions more. Subtlety doesn't read well with sprites. And neutral expressions on a realistic sprite read as very robotic - further pushing the uncanny valley feeling.

It is "reality" versus "representation". Theatre actors have to support their acting with more exaggeration, because "normal" facial expressions can't be easily seen by the audience, so artists need to avoid drawing what an exact expression looks like as it exists in reality, and push it into representation, adding the elements and features that easily READ as that expression at a glance. Everything needs to be "pushed" more.

The expression lists next to the Roger Steel characters are almost unreadable to me. I can't easily tell which face is expressing which emotion, and that's a problem - the same one I believe caused the art of Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense to hurt impressions of potential buyers.

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Re: (commercial) Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defense

#15 Post by jack_norton » Mon Mar 14, 2016 11:46 am

Yup I completely agree with you on everything regarding the art, indeed probably will look for another artist. But for now I'll wait to have all the script done. RS is a big game (could reach 300k words) and won't be done before next year for sure... so I don't need to rush it. I did too many mistakes recently because I didn't take enough time to think, and I'm trying to get back on track! :)
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